VANCOUVER - Win or lose in the Stanley Cup final, Vancouver's mayor says the city's hockey dans won't react the way they did nearly two decades ago.
"We've matured as a city and we know how to handle whatever the outcome is," Gregor Robertson said Sunday.
The infamous riot 17 years ago, when the Canucks last made it this far into the playoffs, is on many minds. But Robertson downplayed that event, pointing to the positive street celebrations that have happened in the weeks leading up to this point.
"And that's what we expect," he said. "We learned a lot at the Olympics, the (Vancouver Police Department) are very good at managing big crowds in a positive way and I expect there will be a good celebration regardless of what happens next."
The Vancouver police also learned a lot from the rioting that went on June 14, 1994, after the Canucks' lost Game 7 of the final to the New York Rangers. The incident saw at least 50,000 fans converge on the city's downtown core, smashing windows and causing about $1.1 million worth of damage. About 200 people were injured, while 540 officers were called in to subdue the crowd.
"I worked the '94 Stanley Cup playoffs, I was there for many of the games," Vancouver police chief Jim Chu said last week. "One of the key lessons was our crowd control unit was actually put into the basement of a church and they never came out to help police the events until the riots broke out."
This time around, the crowd control unit will be "front and centre," providing a strong police presence and making sure everyone is safe.
Chu has also seen the change inVancouver fans over the years, highlighted by the lack of rowdiness during the Olympics.
"If you were a hooligan during the Olympics, the crowd policed itself," he said, adding that about 200,000 people flooded downtown Vancouver after the gold-medal game last February. "People talked to others that were acting up and said 'Look, we're all trying to have a good time here.' We've had great co-operation from people that are enjoying the celebrations."
Last Tuesday, after the Canucks clinched the Western Conference title with an overtime win over the San Jose Sharks, about 80-90 cops were sent to the downtown area to deal with about 20,000 ecstatic fans. Just six arrests were made -- all for being drunk in a public place.
"The earlier rounds were actually lower and smaller than what we actually expected," said Chu. "But we certainly had a large deployment of police officers for the games in the earlier rounds."
More officers are expected for the final, which starts Wednesday in Vancouver, while policing costs for the playoffs are projected at $648,000 -- $500,000 of which are budgeted for the final round alone.
"If the Canucks go four straight, which we always hope for, it will be less," said Chu.
There are also no plans to shut down liquor stores early.
Adds Robertson: "We put some buffer in our annual budget for unexpected events and this is a very positive unexpected event to have to support and it's having great positive impact right across the province economically."